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Saturday, 17 May 2014

How does global business flow now? A MUST READ if you are in business.

In this blog I have been regularly talking about global business changing rapidly and how the internet and modern transportation methods have impacted the landscape of competition for numerous industries. Distance does not matter anymore!

If your overhead structure and prices are not GLOBALLY competitive you better get your skates on and make them so before the freight train runs you over.

To say it again, regardless of international borders, overseas competitors are now able to take you and your company on at home and are doing so. 

I follow the McKinsey Global Institute and this month they released a research report with some stats that you cannot afford to ignore. 

Here they are:
-There was a $26 trillion flow of goods, services and finance in 2012 which is equivalent to 36% of global GDP.
-By 2025 it is estimated that cross border business flow will reach $85 trillion.
-Global GDP will grow by an estimated $450 billion each year.
-18x increase in internet traffic from 2005 to 2012.
-90% of commercial sellers on eBay export their goods to other countries vs 25% of traditional businesses.
-500% increase in Skype call minutes since 2008
-In 2012 China accounted for 12% of global trade in goods which was up from 2% in 1990.
-In 2012 emerging economies accounted for 38% of the total cross-border flow of goods, services and finance which was up from 14% in 1990.

These confirm the trend I have been writing about in this blog for quite some time now about how global competition is developing.

All of the businesses I am growing in Depth Industries are geared to help companies stay globally competitive by accessing the goods and services that will help them not only survive, but prosper in this landscape of truly international competition.

Time to face the brutal fact. International competition is commoditising goods and services more than ever before in history and whether you like it or not price is increasingly the driver in the decision making process.

Are you globally competitive and chasing down international markets? If not, why not?! There are some great opportunities if you are rigged the right way.

I'd like to help you develop a strategy for your business and would welcome you contacting me.

All for now,

+Brad Skelton 

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Is marine cargo insurance essential?

I was talking to a Depth Logistics client yesterday who has asked us to ship a container of parts for her.

As is our standard operating procedure, I asked her whether she had marine insurance cover for the shipment? She told me that they wouldn't worry on this shipment as it wasn't big enough...or in translation to me, not worth enough that if it were lost or damaged there would be a serious financial impact on their company.

To most people it would seem commercially astute to save the small cost of an insurance premium where they believe the risk of loss or damage to their cargo is negligible. Sound logic if it were just the cargo that is at risk but it isn't!

Centuries of maritime law precedents have established an entirely different principle that make it important to have marine transit cover in place on even the seemingly small and low risk shipments. Shipping has numerous uncontrollable risks at sea and is inherently a high risk activity for any business.

Maritime law tends to side with the ship owner whether you like it or not. Most people don't realise that when they ship their cargo on any ship for a particular voyage then at law, they are considered to be in a joint venture for that voyage. What this means for shippers is that should the vessel get into distress, suffer a mishap, be forced to jettison cargo to save the ship, be lost at sea or hypothetically require salvage to remove it from a shipping channel then each shipper with cargo on board proportionately shares in these costs. That is the spirit of a joint venture after all and maritime law precedents support this regardless of fault or blame.


Therefore cargo even with a low value can end up costing the shipper a literal fortune for their share of costs incurred to deal with the mishap properly. In my career there was one occasion where a client had a single container on a ship that ran aground in a shipping channel. The vessel had to be cut up at sea and removed from the channel as it presented a risk to other vessels and the environment. My client got a bill in the region of $400,000 for their share of costs even though their cargo was worth only a fraction of this. Had they not taken been prudent enough to ask me to take out marine insurance for them this would have been a ruinous event for their company.

So you should ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS...(have I shouted it enough?) ALWAYS have marine cargo insurance. It is false economy not to.

Feel free to contact me or my team if you would like some free advice on this critical aspect of shipping.

All for now,

+Brad Skelton 


Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Australian federal budget 2014. Some suggestions from a humble shipping bloke.

On the 13 of May the new Australian Government hands down the Australian Federal Budget 2014. The speculation as to what will be in it seems bigger than ever in the media. While in no way do I consider myself an economist, at very best perhaps a bush economist, I'd like to enter the fray with a couple of suggestions for the Treasurer, Joe Hockey.

I think most Australians accept our country is now back in debt and it needs to be addressed. Generally I think we are prepared to take some pain rather than go the way of other countries whose debt grew to such an overwhelming level that their economies became dysfunctional. The Australian government must raise tax revenue, cut costs and help our exporters. Pure and simple.


With my background and qualifications in international trade and customs I think one area that government should use is with import duties. An increase in import duty of just 1 or 2%, on imported goods from countries that Australia does not have a free trade agreement with, would generate huge revenue and also help protect our local jobs and manufacturers who are rapidly disappearing with increasing global competition. Furthermore it would make imported goods slightly more expensive and hopefully slow imports down and thus improve our balance of payments. Such an increase to import duty is easy to apply and cheap to administer as Customs have the IT infrastructure to do this already.

Back in my college days, about 25 years ago, I wrote my final paper suggesting that protectionist policy had had it's day and we would see free trade between nations and trading blocks emerge. I was severely marked down on this at the time as my lecturer had a strong protectionist and differing view. Essentially what I predicted is what has come to pass though. 

I have not been a protectionist for all of my working life however I now think in the next 5-10 years we may go full circle and we will start implementing protectionist policy once again. I believe many other countries in the west will be forced to as they cannot compete with other other countries and keep their population employed. So as global competition is intensifying I am gradually becoming a protectionist conditional upon import duties imposed being kept to a bare minimum. In my mind an absolute maximum of 5% as we do not want our local industry to become complacent or reliant on import duty for survival.

The other area is GST. While I do not profess to know the finer points of Canadian taxation, it seems to me that the Canucks are doing it pretty well and adjust the rate of GST up or down accordingly to act as another economic lever. During the GFC they lowered their GST progressively from 9% to 5% where it is now which in effect helped stimulate the economy by making things cheaper.

In Australia the main and seemingly only lever we use is interest rates to slow down or to stimulate economy. Pretty crude approach in comparison to our Canadian mates who have very similar economy to ours with mining, tourism and agriculture being key drivers and two levers to pull economically. We should follow their lead.

Apart from that, help is on the way to our exporters. This month the government increased expenditure on Export Market Development Grants and simplified the process. A positive initiative that will certainly assist.

If only the AUD would weaken to sensible levels for our exporters then we'd be knocking down that foreign debt in no time.

I'm happy to take your call Mr Hockey if you'd like a few more suggestions...

All for now,

+Brad Skelton 

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Floating nuclear power plants at sea

Since the earthquake and tsunami that hit the Fukushima nuclear power plant the industry has started looking at offshore alternatives that they believe will be much safer.

In fact, Russia is already building the first floating plant called the "Akademic Lomonosov"(pictured) which will be operating by 2016. This is essentially a vessel that will be docked at a wharf in Vilyuchinsk and will be connected to the local electricity grid and steam lines. The vessel can be easily mobilised in the event of a mishap away from the town.

Russian nuclear power concept

Akademic Lomonosov under construction
In the USA, MIT has another floating nuclear power plant concept that is thought will be tsunami and earthquake proof. The MIT design stations much bigger nuclear power plants much further offshore much like a floating oil platform. In the event of an incident it is further away from major population centres and there is also sea water available that could be used to cool rods and stop them melting down.

Despite major incidents like Fukushima and Chernobyl, it appears that nuclear power is here to stay and our oceans and shipping industry are about to start playing a role in meeting our energy needs.

All for now,

Friday, 18 April 2014

Cheaper Australian coastal shipping services ahead...finally!

Back in June 2012 I posted this blog about the then Federal Government's changes to shipping legislation that they somehow thought would revitalise shipping in Australia and lead to more coastal services. 

I reported in that post that the new legislation was actually having the reverse affect as many ship owners ceased their Australian coastal shipping services. That legislation lead to them being burdened with additional government charges, increased salaries for foreign crew who had to be paid at Australian award rates and significantly more red tape and paperwork to deal with. The few carriers that still offered a service were forced to pass on these costs and rates were hiked making shipping some cargo by sea more expensive than road or rail.

The bottom line was that my clients businesses were burdened with additional transportation costs that they could ill afford and Australian shipping wasn't revitalised one iota and indeed it regressed in my opinion.

This month the new Liberal Government announced a review of this legislation and released this option paper entitled "Approaches to regulating Australian Coast Shipping".


Sensibly this options paper contemplates removing all regulation of coastal shipping and to actively minimise all industry burden and costs.

Depth Logistics' is already gearing up our Australian Coastal Shipping Service in preparedness for our clients directing more of their domestic cargo back to sea. Furthermore we will be making a submission firmly advocating, on behalf of our clients, the negative impacts the current legislation has had on them and explaining why it MUST go. If you would like any particular concern, idea or view you may have expressed on you or your companies behalf, then please either make a comment in this blog post or contact us.

Stay tuned to this blog or follow +Depth Logistics or +Brad Skelton on Google+ for updates as this review unfolds. 

Rest assured Depth's team and I will do everything we can to influence the right outcome for our clients and industry.

All for now,

+Brad Skelton 

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Have you tuned out to advertising as well?

In this blog I have written about changes and restructuring of the way business is being done globally. Nearly every industry is being challenged in some way.

I believe advertising is no different and think that people are tuning out to traditional forms of advertising no matter what channel is delivering it. It is literally overwhelming how much our senses get assaulted by advertising these days as corporations try to be heard more loudly than their competitors.

The internet has changed the landscape. Once the power in any sales transaction rested mainly with the seller. Now the pendulum has swung and with the help of the internet and smartphones the buyer now has the power to immediately price check globally and verify facts to see which companies are telling them the truth. 

This YouTube clip illustrates perfectly why we are tuning out to traditional advertising.


Authenticity, transparency and a fair price is what earns a buyers trust, attention and spend. By the way, you don't sell anything unless there is a transfer of trust!

I also believe there is a change in consciousness of buyers and what corporate messaging and advertising they choose to listen too. And YES...this is increasingly a CHOICE and therefore further undermines the power of advertisers and big corporate. Social media is impacting this massively where customers CHOOSE to follow certain companies and brands online. Word of mouth is everything and today word of mouth is mostly online.

Even a tiny one person start company can be heard above big corporate advertising campaigns these days and frequently smaller businesses are immediately trusted more. Particularly by the Millennials who live on social media and forums for nearly all their needs.

So how can big corporate keep our attention? 

I think they need to get fair dinkum about embracing social entrepreneurial-ism and work out how they can make a difference to our community and planet. +Pepsi  is one big corporate who has done a great job of this with their Pepsi Refresh Project. In essence they diverted $20m in marketing spend toward ideas that could have a positive impact on the community. 

This not only did a lot of good, but the publicity, trust and advocacy this earned them far outstripped the return on investment they would have otherwise received through spending this money directly on more advertising noise.

All for now,

+Brad Skelton 



Tuesday, 11 February 2014

How far off is the Circular Economy?

So what is a circular economy I hear you ask?

The best way to explain a circular economy is to look at our current linear economy. Our economy today is mainly driven through taking in material from the ground, manufacturing something, and ultimately that material or product, gets thrown away.While the world is progressively recycling more, with a circular economy you go further in that you design products to be regenerative. Therefore you design a car for re-manufacture, dis-assembly and de-componentisation. A circular economy allows for the materials that sit within the global economy that currently get thrown away to go back in. 
Economically this will involve everything from different financing of those products and materials to different business models. Do we sell the product...or...do people pay per use of the product or those materials for the period of time they have possession of it?
This short YouTube clip illustrates the concept nicely.

Commodity prices have been trending up for a long time and most are becoming increasingly scarce. Adopting circular economy principles radically changes the rules of production and manufacturing costs. Environmental impact would also be reduced. The gains for us all are potentially be enormous.
There are so many exciting changes happening as global competition gains more momentum. We are seeing new industries spring up and many old economy businesses fall by the wayside. For any company to have a long term future it's senior management must be scanning the horizon to ensure that they are not only competitive at home but globally competitive. 
Adoption of modern thinking such as circular economy principles will certainly be another contributor to long term viability of businesses and sustainability.
What can you do in your business to move toward this and what opportunities do you see?
All for now,